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Local Govt Act Review Promotes Water Privatisation

Citizens beware! The path is being paved for the second wave of 'Rogernomics', to enable corporates to get their filthy hands on our remaining public property that is left in the hands of local government - through public-private-partnerships.

Hans Engelbert, General Secretary of the Public Services International, stated the global position very clearly in June 2001:

"Decision-makers are now under increasing pressure to contract the operation of water systems to the private sector, usually through a concession or management contract. The water division of the World Bank, the multinational water companies themselves, and bodies such as the Global Water partnership have all argued that the solution to water problems is always in the private sector - whether it is called privatisation, public-private-partnership (PPP) or private sector participation (PSP)

Here in New Zealand, under the Labour-Alliance coalition government, a 'consultation' document on the Local Government Act has been produced, which is promoting the privatisation of water services (and other services) through public-private partnerships.

Before the 1999 General Election both the Labour and Alliance parties stated their opposition to water privatisation. What is being proposed in this 'consultation' document represents an outrageous, treacherous 180 U turn.

"It is proposed that councils incorporate in their long term plans an assessment of services including drinking water, drainage, waste management, storm water, solid waste, waste disposal and other functions. It is proposed that the long term council plan would be reviewed and consulted on every three years to allow new elected representatives and the public to influence the council programme. The LTCP should include:

. identification of desired community outcomes, the role of the council in acheiving those outcomes through its services activities and policies, and partnerships with other territorial/regional organisations, central government, non-government organisations and the private sector that are being or will be pursued."

(Review of the Local Government Act 1974 Consultation Document Pg 39.)

If the Labour-Alliance coalition government were genuinely opposed to the privatisation of water (and other services), this 'consultation' document and ensuing legislation would enshrine the following principles:

"Water and sanitation systems are essential in sustaining life, in social progress, and for economic development. That access to water should not be left to market forces, which affect too heavily the basic questions of who gets water (only those who can afford to pay), the impact of water decisions on the environment, and a range of other questions. Water should remain a public good, owned and operated by the public sector." Hans Engelbert, General Secretary of the Public Services International, June 2001.

The Local Government Act must legislate against the privatisation of our water services. Politicians who don't publically and actively oppose privatisation will be seen as helping privatisation. Politicians who are reading this - beware! We are watching and are merciless on SELLOUTS.

Under the guise of 'modernising' the Local Government Act, changes are being advocated to give councils sweeping powers of 'general competence' which will give them pretty much a free rein to act even more blatantly on behalf of the 'community'. (IE: Big business and the very wealthy.) The public safeguard against these broader powers of 'general competence' is a sick joke. It is 'consultation'.

"It is proposed that the existing special consultative procedure become the basis for consultation. This may be supplemented by each council's own consultation policy.

The existing special consultative procedure requires thgat public notice of a proposal is given by the council and that the public is given 1-3 months to make submissions. The submissions must be heard at a council meeting open to the public. The counci's final decision after the hearing of submissions must also be made at a council meeting.

It is proposed that this procedure be modified to include a requirement for councils to acknowledge submissions and that councils would provide a response setting out the reasons for the council's decisions following condieration of submissions."

(Review of the Local Government Act 1974 Consultation Document Pg 41.)

People may care to remember that Papakura's water services were privatised under existing consultation procedures. Our Water Pressure Group experience of participating in the Auckland City Council Annual Plan public submission process, and in the public consultation process for the Auckland Region Water Review have been nothing more than a token, meaningless farce. Hundreds of hours have been spent collecting thousands of signatures - to be ignored. A majority of politicians were elected promising to dump commercialised Metrowater Ltd. Seven out of twenty broke their promises. No reprecussions. No laws that make politicians keep their promises. Sure you can vote them out, and get in another batch that don't keep their promises! They can do a lot of damage in three years!

Harder for politicians to ignore is the organisation of civil society, independently of political parties, using as back-up, direct action and civil disobedience.

Email a submission oposing public-private partnerships to lgareview@dia.govt.nz by 5.00pm Thursday 30 August.

More importantly, take direct action to give the politicians a message they can't ignore!! Send a postcard to Helen Clark pledging not to pay your next water bill, and unlike the majority of politicians - keep your word!

Penny Bright Media Spokesperson Auckland Water Pressure Group Ph: 828 4517 Fax: 828 4593


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